"Welcome Baby Care" and the Project - Carey's Story

Carey Lindeman - Welcome Baby Care

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. With my business education and after working and staying home with 5 daughters, I decided to take my volunteer work with senior adults to the next level. I started a company in 2005 working in home with people that couldn’t live alone any longer. In 2007 my daughter had a baby and I immediately observed that there was a growing need for mothers arriving home after having a baby. They were in and out of the hospital or birth centers and home rapidly, sometimes missing the necessary beginning bits of education needed to start life with a new baby. Knowing that many of these families with new little ones have families all over the globe with neighbors, aunts, uncles, friends that are no longer available to help with the new baby as they once were. I started Welcome Baby Care which was to be the village in the new family’s life. Welcome Baby Care consists of postpartum doulas, caring for the needs of the new mothers and are trained in mother/baby health, providing daytime and overnight help, lactation consultants, nurses, and a sleep coach with age appropriate education. We have developed a certification program to train woman looking to pursue postpartum work as a career.

2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health? What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?

I believe if you get the breastfeeding piece right so many other things fall into place. Health and well-being of the mother and child, depend so much on feeding as does bonding between mother and child. I believe if anyone wants to breastfeed there should be the training available to do so. Breastfeeding does not come naturally, it’s a learned skill.

3.  How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding? What challenges did you have and what support did you receive?

I remember the closeness I felt to my baby through breastfeeding. Feeding is a basic need and I liked the fact that I was able to provide that for my baby. I would like all mothers to succeed with breastfeeding if that’s what they choose to do without judgement from others. I received support in the hospital getting started and that was about it. Most of it I figured out on my own and I know it could have been so much better with resources that were not available to my knowledge. I went to La Leche League and felt a lot of judgement, especially when I decided to go back to work.

4. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?

Getting the help and resources they need from their medical practitioners, and pressure from other moms to be a perfect mother. We teach mothers to go with their instincts about how to raise their children.

5. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the numbers of woman breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don’t get support from communities and society in general that they should?

Numbers are declining because of not enough up to date information from health care professionals, hospital staff don’t take enough time or interest in helping the new mother start breastfeeding properly, lack of employers that accommodate breastfeeding mothers, not enough opportunities to communicate with other breastfeeding mothers. A mother doesn’t have her little village of neighbors, friends and extended family to help on a daily basis to support her like people had years ago.

6. Why have you become involved in the mother baby project? What role do you think can innovation play in promoting this age-old practice?

I believe in the mission of the project and think the time is right for getting the word out to mothers about breastfeeding through innovation. This is how new moms get most of their information. I am honored to be a part of this team of professionals putting this together and looking forward to doing anything I can to push this out to as many people as possible.

Supporting Through the Project - Jan's Story

Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC, FILCA, is another wonderful volunteer who has dedicated her time to assist with the Mother-Baby project. Her story below outlines why she was interested to help the project and apply her passion.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself? 

I am a Maternal/Child Health nurse by background and have worked in every aspect of MCH except the NICU.  I have been a lactation consultant since 1985, working in private practice for 31 years and for a pediatric practice for 23 years.  I have been teaching aspiring lactation consultants since 1995, and continue to do so. My husband is a semi-retired pharmacist, and I have three children -- my oldest daughter is a family nurse practitioner, my middle daughter is a social worker, and my son works for Save the Children in Washington DC.  I have four grandchildren, two girls and two boys.

2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health?

Truly I got started because I was teaching Fundamentals of Nursing in a two year diploma nursing program and wanted to get out of teaching first year. The only opening was in OB nursing in the second year so that was my entree into MCH back in 1971. 

3. What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?

Breastfeeding came rather easily to me with my first two, but I was a bit puzzled by the conflicting information I would get on breastfeeding and parenting, it just didn't jibe with what I was *feeling* as though I should be doing.  My son was the third baby delivered by home birth (perfect birth!) but he couldn't figure out this breastfeeding gig at all.  Once we’d finally got it pulled together, despite making no milk on one side (we've never figured that one out), I met a woman who had taken one of the first lactation programs in the US. She was the first lactation consultant in the state of IL and we joined forces and became The Breastfeeding Connection in 1985.  The more I learned about breastfeeding and human lactation, the more I knew I needed to help other moms and families.

4. How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding?

I wish I had done things differently. I listened too much to my mother and not enough to my own instincts, something I have really encouraged moms to do since then.

 5. What challenges did you have and what support did you receive? 

Not much with babies one and two, but my number three wouldn't latch and was not a vigorous nurser. I produced virtually no milk on the left side and no reason was ever found. I got support from Pat, the woman who was the first lactation consultant in IL.  We muddled our way through all this together.

6. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?

There are too many interventions in L&D (Labor and Delivery) causing more problems with initiating good breastfeeding and latch. In addition, there are too many rules surrounding breastfeeding (feed every x hours for x minutes on each side) and not enough practical support.  Whilst there are good IBCLCs in our community there are not enough of them and they have limited resources to help all moms.

7. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the numbers of women breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don't get support from communities and society in general that they should?

Part of the problem is the formula companies that are eager to "support" moms that are having breastfeeding difficulties, the nasty articles that come out about breastfeeding in the media, and a whole host of other things.  Millennials want to be able to quantify everything, and you can't quantify breastfeeding.  There is a lack of support between mom going home and her ability to connect with someone who provides good breastfeeding help during that first week at home.  Sometimes our health system processes are not terribly supportive and will encourage moms to supplement or quit all together rather than taking the time to deal with the problems and/or refer her to someone that can help further.

8. Why have you become involved in the Mother-Baby project?

I love the concept of having something that our millennials (and younger) will be able to use at 2:00am when there is an issue. 

 9. What role do you think innovation can play in promoting this age old practice?

Many people use "Dr. Google" to try and find out what is going on with their breastfeeding issues.  Unfortunately there is a veritable forest of poor information out there. Having something that is current, up to date, and easily accessed will help these moms get over the humps they are experiencing in breastfeeding.

Educating Through the Project - Randee's Story

Randee Bloom, RN, MBA, PhD, has been one of the incredible volunteers assisting with the Mother-Baby project. Her story below outlines her motivation and enthusiasm to be involved in the Mother-Baby journey.

 1. Tell us a bit about yourself? 

My husband and I are proud parents of three adult children, two daughters (now married to two wonderful son-in-laws) and a son; and now joyful grandparents of an 13-month old grandson!

Professionally, I first started practicing as a pediatric nurse, then became a hospital administrator and then later a healthcare consultant. I’ve always had an interest in nonprofit management and specifically volunteer service.

 I’m now working nearly full-time in a volunteer capacity for several nonprofit organizations in health and human services. I’m especially interested in clinical care services, healthcare practices and volunteer services for healthcare professionals. 

2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health? What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?

I was initially contacted via my work with the AARP-Create the Good volunteer recruitment tool and its possible value toward the development of the team of supporters for the project. I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding as the ideal method of new baby care for the benefit of the baby and mother. Additionally, I envision the value of this methodology of patient education and support (technology, and specifically hand-held, readily accessible, evidence-based and free) especially for individuals (mothers/fathers/support team) not otherwise able to obtain the information, especially so readily.

3. How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding? What challenges did you have and what support did you receive? 

I happily anticipated the opportunity to breastfeed each of my children. I fortunately had three very successful natural childbirth experiences and was able to breastfeed each child for at least 6 months.  

I recall very little challenges to my breastfeeding experiences. Of note, I worked full-time following my first daughter’s birth and was able to maintain her exclusive breastfeeding diet with relative ease.  During the early months of my second and third children’s life I worked part-time and again could maintain their breastfeeding diet. I enjoyed great support from my husband, mother, other relatives, friends, colleagues and clients.

4. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?

I believe the biggest challenges for mothers now is too much information that is readily available but often very conflicting and many times wrong. Much of the information obtained from others (family/friends) is simply their personal experience, not applicable to the individual mother. And the plethora of information accessible on-line provides, I believe, a false sense of confidence: information obtained is often believed to be right and thus the individual exercises their behaviors based upon the information rather than the source or applicability to their personal situation.

While breastfeeding is as natural a human practice as we can demonstrate, there is a significant number of healthcare-specific aspects that highly influence the “success” of the breastfeeding experience. Mothers not otherwise correctly educated, for their own and their baby’s individual needs, applies the obtained information as if there exists a one-size for all methodology. Nowhere else in healthcare would this be acceptable.

Additionally, despite our relatively socially-advanced or accepting society of the 21st century, there exists a significant amount of discomfort toward public breastfeeding, regardless of how discrete. Mothers are not universally made to feel both comfortable and honored for their personal efforts.

5. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the number of women breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don't get the support from communities and society in general that they should?

Breastfeeding continues to be considered by many, including well-meaning clinicians, as optional. While there are a significant number of situations wherein breastfeeding is not an option for a specific mother and child, overwhelmingly the opportunity can be created successfully. I believe that in the US we have not created a perspective that breastfeeding a newborn and young child is highly superior for both Mom and Baby as compared to formula feeding. Consider how we stress the importance of on-time and complete infant/young child vaccinations. Parents are instructed from their clinicians, and later school leaders, that research findings and even local policies mandate this childcare medical intervention. This is totally wonderful and vital to every individual child’s health and our community’s health in general. Consider our public health messaging for nutritional education and personal responsibility of practice. Where is this type of strongly messaged instruction for a practice wherein the mother and child are both medically/physically benefited and both psychologically enhanced as a unit with such relative ease?

As this perception continues, there is a growing need to adjust laws, create opportunities for comfort, and develop a real perspective that breastfeeding is to be promoted and supported. There exists a strong need for free, readily available, and expertly developed tools to educate and praise. The evidence that the mother and child highly benefit is simply not well promoted. Breastfeeding is, in my opinion, considered an excellent option, but an option. Rather, the benefits to mom and child are minimized and provided with a readily available set of substitutions: excellent healthy formula (often available at little cost), wonderful modern feeding bottle systems, expressions of sharing the bonding by offering others the opportunity to feed the infant, etc.

6. Why have you become involved in the Mother-Baby project? What role do you think innovation can play in promoting this age old practice?

I am honored that my personal expertise, perspective and application of resources can benefit this project. I have consistently been impressed by the expertise of others involved, the resources being dedicated to the project, and the mission to provide these tools to so many mothers and babies across socio-economic and cultural lives. I have experienced the contributions that innovation has made to the delivery of healthcare both in practice and educational arenas. I believe that the realistic approaches build into this project (smart phone applications and a library of readily available educational videos, along with future connections to healthcare experts) provides an excellent model for success.

Growing the Project - Kathy's Story

Kathy Phelan is the CEO and founder of Small World Social.  She specializes in discovering and applying new technologies to improve productivity and effectiveness. Kathy is passionate about using these to understand and explain complex concepts in health, science and medicine.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a mother of two daughters, 29 and 30 years old, and I am a technologist that loves to build big things and collaborate with inspiring people.

 2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health?  What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?

Breastfeeding is the single most impactful thing we can do for long-term health for both the health of the mother and baby. The recent Lancet Breastfeeding Series highlighted this. The greater women's participation in the labor market, the greater the recorded decline of breastfeeding. With all our clever technology, we should be able to reverse this trend - and quickly.

I really love the juxtaposition of using the latest technology to support something that really exemplifies the essence of what it is to be a human being - breastfeeding an infant.

With my own journey, I was surprised how difficult it was to learn the practice and I had a lot of help and support from my neighbors, mother and sister, as well as the luxury of time at home.

We know from a great deal of research, that to have healthy and happy communities, all age groups need to participate fully in raising children. This is where I think seniors in our community can help with supporting breastfeeding and positive parenting more broadly.

It's really important that we have seniors involved in child-raising. They are wise and experienced, and have insights that can really improve the quality of life in our communities.  I am especially excited about the involvement of our wonderful community volunteers in the Mother-Baby project. They are such an inspiration to our team, providing caring encouragement and guidance on strategies and approaches to use in the application and educational materials.

I have had a career-long interest in health and technology. I want to find better ways to promote health and wellbeing, deliver services, and innovate.

3. How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding? What challenges did you have and what support did you receive? 

I was able to breastfeed both my daughters and initially, it was a very difficult skill for me to confidently master.  Breast pumps and all the associated gear needed for getting back to work were a real shock, that's for sure.

4. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?

There is a lot of variability in the quality of advice and support. Generally, in the U.S., I don't think breastfeeding is encouraged enough in public and in communities more broadly.  Mothers should be told they are doing an excellent job and how well they and baby are doing by other women in public, so we reinforce a culture of encouragement and affirmation.

5. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the numbers of women breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don't get support from communities and society in general that they should?

The reduced rates are linked statistically to women's participation in the labor force.  We have seen this trend appear in all industrialized countries around the world.  

6. Why have you become involved in the Mother-Baby project? What role do you think innovation can play in promoting this age-old practice?

I want to be part of a team that moves the needle in the right direction - up - increasing breastfeeding globally. My goal is to see breastfeeding rates hit 90% for the bulk of the world's 130 million babies born each year.

Birth of the Mother Baby Project - Karina's Story

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding up to two years of age is the gold standard recommended by UNICEF and WHO. Global evidence has proven unequivocally it is the best investment for optimal growth and intellectual development of your child.

Yet despite this evidence, worldwide, 92 million children under six months of age, two out of three babies are either artificially fed or fed a mixture of breast milk and other foods.

Karina Ayers, a West Australian midwife, lactation specialist and community nurse, lives in the rural South West. Having spent the last two decades committed to helping mum and baby thrive in the first year of life, she has decided the practical support needed by new mums is often not available.

From her home in Cowaramup, where she lives with her partner, Fynn, a builder and her two sons Kit and Ollie, she is using her experience, to see how she can help make sure breastfeeding remains the norm, not just in Australia but all over the world.

Karina has joined forces with Kathy Phelan, another Australian, now based in Silicon Valley, to create an app that will mix new technology and the best technical know-how to provide mums with simple techniques to overcome some of the challenges they face to breastfeeding.

The Mother Baby Project has been a labor of love for Karina, who has taken time out from her work as a community nurse to turn this dream into a reality.

1. Tell us about yourself and where you live?

Family pic.jpg

I live in a very beautiful part of the world in the southwest corner of Western Australia, surrounded by bush and beaches. This is farming, wine growing and surfing country. I moved down here in my twenties and stayed. It is a supportive community where people have chosen the life style and appreciate the outdoor way of living. My partner Fynn and I have two fabulous boys. We live in an old home we have renovated using recycled wood and other local materials. My son’s Kit, who is 10 and Ollie, who is 8 years old, help look after the vegetable garden and the chickens. We seek to create a nurturing yet interesting environment for them.

I was lucky to grow up in a loving family, with horses, dogs and cats and a general fascination with nature and animals. This curiosity has always extended to wanting to better understand the behavior of babies and children. My partner Fynn, who also loves nature, is endlessly supportive of my ideas and my desire to try something new!

2. Tell us a little about why you chose to become a midwife and community nurse? What were the highlights?

After specialising in paediatric nursing, which I loved because kids are so true and honest, I was determined to become a midwife. I loved seeing the start of new life and being part of guiding parents and seeing their adjustment to this new role. I soon discovered that the process of breastfeeding and lactation is much more complex than what was taught in both nursing and midwifery, and I found myself drawn to learn more about it. So much of what I did as a midwife, was about parents being able to adapt and learn about breastfeeding. This often took time, and I didn’t really understand how important this was to the success of whether the baby would feed or not.

The best part of the job was being part of this amazing journey and seeing how I could help parents, especially mothers, to make this connection with their babies and succeed, especially in those critical first days, to start the breastfeeding process. But I also realized, mothers needed support beyond that initial period. As a community nurse and lactation consultant, I could extend my relationship with mother and baby beyond the first few days, to then be able to guide families over the next few months and help them continue as the baby grew and they moved from exclusive feeding to introducing foods.

I continue to be fascinated by child development during the first few years of a child’s life and being part of the journey by providing support to parents and their child to reach important developmental milestones.

3. What drove you to give up your day job as a community health nurse and midwife and work full time on the Mother Baby Project?

Despite loving my role as a coordinator for child health services, I often felt more could be done to support the parents if they had more access to the right information and support. Working in the rural and regional setting there was limitations to resources and often information and education materials were cumbersome not tailored to the needs of new parents.

With the advent of new technology, I was interested to see how by using these platforms we could supplement the information mothers received from nurses, in a way that was easy to use, practical and based on the latest science and best practice. Parents often receive a lot of conflicting consumer information, especially when the formula companies spend a lot of money promoting their products. So the idea is to make a platform that is accessible and user friendly but also trustworthy.

4. How did you meet Kath Phelan and become part of Small World Social?

After attending a conference in Melbourne in 2014 and seeing the presentation by SWS on the Breastfeeding- Google Glass project I thought, this is what I really want to do. Be part of something that is creative in design, and that brings together the best of research and evidence based practice, which is directed to families in a very simple digestible way using mobile technology. I reached out to Kathy Phelan and was immediately taken with the essence of her approach. She was open and excited to collaborate. It has been a great experience to work with her, as I feel like I am continually learning and she is an optimist, who also believes in this idea.

5. Why is this mother baby project so important to you?

Based on my experience, I know there are many women who want to breastfeed, but don’t get the right support when their baby is born. They may have trouble with the initial latching of the baby to the nipple, they may worry that they are not producing enough milk, or they may experience pain and problems that ultimately deter them from continuing. Often basic tips could overcome these challenges.

After 3 years of watching the technology space grow, globalization of industries take hold and developing a very close collaborative relationship with Kath and SWS, I want the Mother Baby Project to be the best of design but also use a human-centred approach with real people taking part to produce the content, and ultimately make sure it is useful for mothers.

This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to team up with such an amazing international team for an area of health that is often underserved.